Tag Archives: Jeff Daniels

“Steve Jobs” a rip-roaring, crackling good time at the movies. Another disgraceful police brutality incident at a school in S.C. And GOP Debate III, the insanity continues!

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(That World Series game last night, oh my God how fantastic was that! Too exhausted to write about it after it ended, but wow was that great.)

Sometimes, it’s like movies are made exactly for me.

Aaron Sorkin, my favorite Hollywood writer, pens a flick about Steve Jobs, one of the craziest and most brilliant thinkers of the 20th century? And it stars Kate Winslet, Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels?

Yeah, there was a 99 percent chance I was going to love this picture. The wife and I saw “Steve Jobs” Saturday night, and it was spectacular.

Honestly, I had so much fun at this film, and not just because it was a rare date night without the little guy for us.
Sorkin’s script was so sharp and funny and witty, it was like he’d totally forgotten how badly he’d screwed up “The Newsroom” and was channeling the best of his “The West Wing” writing.
The acting, led by Fassbender’s brilliant, frenetic turn as Jobs, was uniformly terrific, with Rogen surprising the hell out of me with the depth of his performance as Steve Wozniak, Jobs’ co-creator of Apple who got shunned to the side as Jobs’ star rose.

The movie shows Jobs as a complicated, often cruel, often whimsical guy, who had a knack for knowing what the customer wanted most times, but stubbornly refusing to yield to basic common consumer sense at others.

I came away from the movie not feeling sympathy for Jobs, but rather, being amazed he was able to accomplish what he did, with so many crippling flaws.

It’s a truly fantastic movie, with great insights into a man few understood. Go see it.

**Next up, you may have seen this video Tuesday, yet another despicable act by a law enforcement officer. This one thankfully didn’t result in a murder, but is distasteful for other reasons. Monday at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., a female student was assaulted and manhandled by Richland County sheriff’s deputy Ben Fields, one of the two officers who works at the school.

The girl was allegedly not obeying the teacher’s orders, and was asked to leave. Fields then ordered the girl to get up, before he yanked her wrist, wraped his arm around her neck, and FLIPS her (and her desk) onto the ground. Fields then drags her out of the overturned desk, throws her across the room, and jumps on top of her while instructing her to put her hands behind her back. At no point does the girl appear to put up a physical fight.

To say this was an incredible overreaction and a wanton abuse of power is an understatement. Incredibly, I saw some people on Facebook defending Mr. Fields Tuesday.

As my friend and e-migo, Dr. Rebecca M. said to me as we discussed this: “People are arguing that security needed to be called for a student not participating, so that learning could happen. If you think learning is going to happen after students witnessed THAT, congrats you have passed the sociopath test.”

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**Finally today, great night for obssessive channel-switchers like me: We’ve got World Series Game 2 (last night was a hell of a game in what ought to be a fabulous Series, I’m picking Royals in 7) and we’ve got Episode 3 of the long-running series “Which 2016 Republican presidential candidate can say the most crazy shit and still get the nomination?”

Yes friends, we’ve got the third GOP debate tonight on CNBC at 8 p.m, starring new front-runner Dr. Ben Carson, who likes to use Nazi Germany references when talking about U.S. legislation; The Man Called Trump, as the great Charlie Pierce calls him, Marco Rubio, who is the only candidate who actually scares me in a general, but can’t seem to get any traction; and W.’s brother, who is running the worst campaign this side of Lincoln Chafee.

One of these days I’ve got to live-blog or live-Tweet these GOP debates, because they’re so batshit crazy, filled with so many far-right ideas and racist, homophobic and xenophobic comments that my head spins.

Couple things to look for tonight: This is the first debate since Carson has surged into the lead, so look for Trump and others to attack him; also, look for Rubio and Bush to really take on Trump some more, now that there’s finally been some denting in his armor.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Kasich continue his theme of “sanity,” in a desperate appeal to seem different from the rest. This debate is supposed to focus on the economy, I’ve read, so with the U.S. economy humming along and the Affordable Care Act a big success in every way, can’t wait to see how they blame Obama.

Get your popcorn, this one ought to be a whole lotta fun.

A TV blog: Why “Weeds” is limping toward the finish line, and I’m giving up on “The Newsroom.” And an interesting study about who gives to charity

Time for one of my occasional TV rants as I wait for the return of the best show currently on TV, “Homeland” on Showtime on Sept. 30. (Seriously folks, this show is worth the price of Showtime alone. It’s fantastic and I keep trying to convert people; my latest conquest is my mother and stepfather, who are halfway through Season 1 and are totally riveted.)

So I’ve been hot and cold on “Weeds” for a few seasons now. The first four seasons of the show were fantastic, dark and hilarious. Then it drifted for two years, getting silly and even more implausible then ever before. Last year the writers brought it back to brilliance, and I had high hopes for the final season, season 8, currently airing.
But man, after a strong first few episodes, “Weeds” has stunk lately. The Jennifer Jason Leigh character, Nancy’s sister, is so unlikeable and stupid you just don’t feel bad when things happen to her. They’ve totally tried to have it both ways with Nancy; after her shooting, she supposedly wants to “change her ways,” and live better and not sell drugs anymore and be a good person.

Only two episodes later, she’s sleeping with a doctor so he’ll buy the pills she’s hawking as a pharmaceutical rep. Totally inconsistent with any human behavior.
Plus, they’ve made Andy an even more aimless fool than before, and Kevin Nealon’s Doug, well, he’s been an awful character for years.

Just frustrating to see “Weeds” go out like this, when it was once so irreverent and brilliant.

And now a few words about “The Newsroom.”

I’ve officially given up. Aaron Sorkin, I don’t know who has inhabited your body and made you write this drivel, where people in your shows do and act and say such incredibly stupid things, and we’re supposed to like them anyway. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’ve never met a woman, anywhere, who would act like your female characters do.

And I dislike Jeff Daniels’ character, Will, more each week. Picking MacKenzie’s ex-boyfriend to write a story about him in last week’s episode was the last straw; he’s just an ass.

I know the season’s not over yet, but I’m done. What an incredible waste of time and talent “The Newsroom” has become. Just sad.

**Finally today, I thought this story I heard on NPR was illuminating. A new study in the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that on the whole, people with lower incomes donate to charity a much bigger share of their income than those in the upper income class.

Households with incomes of $50,000-$75,000 donate on average 7.6 percent of their discretionary income. That’s compared with about four percent for those with incomes of $200,000 or more.
The people who ran the study said that religious giving is a big part of the discrepancy; every gives at church, and all that.

But they also found high-income people who live in economically diverse neighborhoods give more on average than high-income people who live in wealthier neighborhoods.
I’d like to think the reasons for the discrepancy is deeper than that. I don’t think wealthy people are a bunch of greedy bastards who don’t care about the underprivileged; not at all. There are tons of millionaires and billionaires who give generously.

No, I think the disparity may come from this, and this is just my five-cent spitballing opinion:Maybe people with lower incomes know how much a little charity can help, and know the difference a few dollars can make. Maybe they were once in that situation and were helped, and maybe they feel the tug of obligation just a little bit more.

Who knows. Either way, it’s a very interesting story.

Despite what you’ve heard, “The Newsroom” is damn good. Colbert on immigration. Ryan Lochte fires the first salvo.

I can’t remember the last TV show debut I was as excited about as “The Newsroom.”
For one thing, I couldn’t avoid hearing about it; HBO promoted the holy hell out of the new one-hour drama, on commercials, on billboards around New York City, on social media, everywhere.
But really, the biggest reason I was pumped? Aaron Sorkin, the brilliant if a little crazy creator/writer. He made one of the greatest shows of all time with “The West Wing,” two other pretty damn good shows in “Sports Night” and “Studio 60” (which I know a lot of people hated but I loved), and has written the brilliant “The Social Network” and “A Few Good Men.”

I would watch anything Aaron Sorkin has written. He has a gift for words and speaking patterns like few others ever have, and he always shoots for the highest of heights.

Before I watched Sunday’s premiere, I read several negative reviews of the new show. It’s too preachy, they said. It doesn’t get cable news close to accurately. The characters aren’t likeable. Yada, yada, yada.

Then I watched it. It was terrific. (SPOILER ALERT COMING HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET, SKIP TO THE VIDEO BELOW).
Yes, the first half-hour was a bit sanctimonious and smug. Jeff Daniels’ Will is eminently obnoxious, and Sorkin’s writing was quite a bit over the top here in setting the scene.
But about halfway through the episode, the show started to cook. Sam Waterston is fabulous as a “I don’t give a damn anymore” network news head. Emily Mortimer is a worthy foil for Daniels as his new producer (and, since it’s a Sorkin show, his former love interest. The man loves nothing more than workplace romance).
And yeah, it’s very easy in hindsight to see the way this newsroom decided to cover the Deepwater Horizon spill as a serious event immediately as the correct way.
But as I continually said to myself as I read reviews that said “this isn’t what really happens:” It’s a TV show, people! It’s entertainment. If Sorkin showed what digging and gathering on a story like this really looks like, 90 percent of the audience would be bored.

Anyway, it’s not as good as his other work yet. But “The Newsroom” has definite potential, and cracklingly good writing. Can’t wait to see it again next Sunday.

(And for Sorkin zealots like me, check out this amazing video of how often he re-uses certain dialogue with his characters.

**The major Supreme Court ruling Monday on Arizona’s wildly overreaching anti-immigration law was a good thing; most of the law was struck down as being way too stringent and unenforceable (though I loved Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer still trying to claim her side won here).

After reading about the ruling for a while, I got tired and went looking for something much more enjoyable: This Stephen Colbert take on immigration. Much funnier.

**Finally, since I used to cover Ryan Lochte for a living (I worked for his hometown paper in Daytona Beach, Fla.), I still am very interested in the incredible upward arc of his career.
He’s been beating the greatest swimmer of all-time, Michael Phelps, for about two years now, and Monday night at the U.S. Olympic Trials he did it again, besting Phelps in the 400 IM.
No, it doesn’t mean as much as the Olympics. But this is the first step in what will be an awesome duel in the pool in London in about a month.

“Carnage” totally worth your time at the movies. Who’s a bigger fraud, the Jets or the Giants? And a 4-year-old’s reaction to “Empire Strikes Back.”

I have a general rule in life that I never see the movie adaptation of a book I’ve read and liked.

Because nine times out of 10 when I’ve done that in the past, the movie has stunk, and I end up getting mad because it’s not as good as the book, and the movie’s terribleness almost ruins the memory of how good the book was. Happened to me with “The Firm,” happened with “Presumed Innocent,” and many others before I passed my self-rule.

But until Friday I don’t think I’d ever seen the movie of a play I’d loved. But then I saw the new flick “Carnage,” starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, and Christoph Waltz. And it was superb. Brilliant. Phenomenal. Almost the equal of the Broadway play it’s based on “God of Carnage,” that I saw a few years ago with James Gandolfini and Jeff Daniels.

The very simple plot is this: Two 11-year-old schoolboys get into a fight on the playground, with one knocking two of the other boy’s teeth out with a stick. The parents of both boys then get together to discuss what should be done about it.
That’s it. That’s the whole movie. Four people in an apartment, talking. But it’s so much more than that. The writing is cracklingly good, with Foster and Waltz both giving amazing performances as well. The emotions that each of the quartet goes through, and as well drawn as each character is, is truly something special to behold.

It’s funny, it’s dark, and it’s pretty entertaining for a movie that’s set all in one place. Reilly has the best one-liners, and Winslet is her usual fabulous self, but all four are terrific. Go see it when it’s playing near you (supposed to get nationwide release in early January).

**Since I moved back to NY I always enjoy listening to WFAN on Mondays to see which team’s fans, the Jets or the Giants, are the most bitter and miserable. It’s rare that they both play equally awful on the same week, but yep, the Jets and Giants tried to outdo each other in the “pathetic” category Sunday.

My Jets were horrendous. Down 21-0 before you could even say “Mark Gastineau,” they self-destructed on defense, offense, everywhere. Santonio Holmes cost ’em at least seven points, then acted like a 4-year-old moron with his idiotic TD celebration when he finally did catch the ball.

Mark Sanchez wasn’t good, the defense was non-existent, and it’s remarkable how many blowout losses my boys have had this year; the coaching preparation has been highly lacking. I don’t think this team deserves to make the playoffs, but I have a funny feeling the green and white will get in, again.

Fortunately for NY football fans, the Jets and Giants play each other this Saturday, so somebody’s fans will have a Merry Christmas.

I sure as hell hope it’s me.

Couple other quick-hit NFL thoughts today:
 0-13 Indy finally wins. 13-0 Green Bay loses to a Kansas City team that stinks. Two more reasons I never gamble on the NFL.
— I gotta start watching Detroit Lions games every week. They always play thrilling, down-to-the wire finishes. Man that Calvin Johnson is phenomenal.
— It’s gotta suck to be a Buffalo Bills fan. Seven straight losses, after a 5-2 start.
— Finally, here’s hoping Tebow-mania dies down a little this week. Funny what happens when he plays a really good team.

**Finally, this is just superb. A father filmed his 4-year-old son watching “The Empire Strikes Back” for the first time, right at the part where Vader gives his “Luke, I am your father” speech. Kid’s face is priceless: